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U.S. dropping drug trafficking charges against Mexico's former defense chief

On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr and his Mexican counterpart, Alejandro Gertz Manero, announced in a joint statement that the United States is dropping drug trafficking charges filed against former Mexican Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda.

Cienfuegos, who served as defense secretary from 2012 to 2018, was arrested on Oct. 15 at Los Angeles International Airport, accused of working on behalf of one of Mexico's most dangerous cartels. In the statement, the attorneys general said the U.S. made the decision to drop the charges "in the interests of demonstrating our united front against all forms of criminality." With this dismissal, Cienfuegos will be "investigated, and, if appropriate, charged, under Mexican law."

Mexican authorities said they had no idea Cienfuegos was being investigated by U.S. law enforcement, and his arrest came as a surprise, the Los Angeles Times reports. Court documents state that U.S. prosecutors gathered evidence pointing to Cienfuegos helping the cartel smuggle "thousands of kilograms of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana" into the United States.